Friday, November 2, 2012

Connecticut—Still not revolutionary

What would you say if I asked you to name a town or state that is revolutionary. Would Iowa pop into your head? Would you say that Peoria or Tacoma is revolutionary? Not much chance.

“Revolutionary” might suggest Oakland. Or Soho. Or Venezuela. Or Libya.  

Would you say Connecticut is revolutionary? If I gave you 4,000 years, would you ever associate the state of Connecticut with the word “revolutionary”? I’m guessing not.   

That’s why I gnaw my lip every time I come across an advertisement in the campaign “Connecticut—Still revolutionary.” I cringe because of the vast gulf in my mind between the thrilling gongs of the word revolutionary and the dreary scenes of Life Anywhere portrayed in the ads.

In the ad campaign, the slogan “Still revolutionary” accompanies pictures of smiling, sportily dressed, youngish-looking-older models who are engaging in… well, nothing revolutionary or even as risky as eating pork rinds or going outside without a cable-knit sweater. They don't even knock over a glass—much less topple governments or flout social norms.

There MUST be a rationale for proclaiming that Connecticut is “still revolutionary” and showing videos of people walking in and out of old houses smiling at the sconces. How did this jumble of ill-fitting ideas come about?

The only explanation I came up with is that the state official whose job is to stimulate tourism hired three different ad agencies. One team came up with images of youngish, middle-aged Connecticut adults walking in and out of old white houses admiring the fixtures, another agency thought the word revolutionary had an exciting ring, and a third agency—perhaps a trio of retirees who once worked on Madison Avenue—came up with the word “still.”

All the tourism bureaucrat had to do was to mash it all together into a series of ads called “Connecticut, still revolutionary"—and that’s how it came about.

I happen to love Connecticut. Its soul lies deep in the red brick of its abandoned factories. Its heart has been promised to the sea—exemplified in a sprawling submarine base, the last remaining wooden whale ship, the white sails popping out across a glittering Long Island Sound. Connecticut's personality comes from its frosty mornings, the smell of wood-smoke at night, the smell of money wafting over Greenwich, the smell of exotic dishes being cooked in bitterly deprived urban neighborhoods.

Connecticut is Ivy League Yale. It is hard-scrabble Bridgeport. It is Victorian Hartford. It's about arms factories and prim elderly ladies—guns and doilies. The state struts its idealism—the legacy of fierce abolitionists and young men dying for Abe Lincoln's vision of America.

So there is a lot here to think about when building a brand... many bright threads for telling a rich story. Sad to say, however, in the field of destination branding, authenticity is rare, and facing the truth is still revolutionary.



B.M. said...

Agreed...! As a representative of the young CT I can tell you I roll my eyes when I see those ads too. The State used to be more honest with itself -- I rather enjoyed the pretense-free "You Belong in CT" slogan, pleading bored residents not to leave the state.

brandsinger said...

I'm with you, B.M.
Thanks for commenting.

In brand positioning HONESTY is the sine qua non——the pumpkin in the pumpkin pie.

Larry Ackerman said...

I was worried, at first, Claude. I thought: Just another gratuitous attack on silly advertising. Then, as I read your personal vision of what it means to be Connecticut, you grabbed me. Your touchpoints and images are spot on - and honestly moving. So here's my suggestion: Cut and paste your words into an editorial and submit them to the Hartford Currant. It's that good; no, it's that authentic.

brandsinger said...

Awww... sincere thanks, Larry. I'll consider your kind suggestion. Meanwhile, I appreciate hearing from you and hope the storm didn't damage your property... I know it wouldn't harm your hopes.


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B.M. said...

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